The Port Kembla Steelworks was was the hub of the local economy, teeming with thousands of workers and contractors, when John Oxman entered the workforce in the 1960s.
During those early years of employment, the steel plant was so bustling that a double decker bus would pick up workers from Cringila Railway Station and ferry them around the site, Oxman recalls.
And as cars became more prevalent, the traffic around the steelworks was chaotic, particularly at change of shift.
Oxman remembers that if you hadn't crossed the old timber Windang Bridge by 6am, due to getting caught in the north-bound rush hour, you were cutting it fine getting to the steelworks for 7am start of shift.
Times have radically changed in the Australian steel making industry since the 1960s and 1970s.
Oh, and speaking of changes, Oxman's job has also undergone a marked transformation in the past five decades.
He started working as a computer programmer for BHP in the 1960s at a time when mainframe computers were big and expensive and required entire rooms for their proper maintenance.
Today Oxman, 65, a senior analyst programmer, works for the global information technology company CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation) at Coniston Technology Park.
He is about to retire after working close to 50 years for BHP, BHP IT and then CSC after the company acquired BHP IT in 2000.
Oxman's career has come full circle. He began a three-year metallurgy traineeship in 1964, starting off in BHP's coke ovens, during which time he developed a good on-the-ground understanding of how the steelworks operated.
Now in his CSC role, Oxman provides IT services to large manufacturing customers including BlueScope Steel and BHP Billiton, in addition to many other national and international clients.
It all started off for Oxman after he left Christian Brothers College Wollongong (now Edmund Rice College) with only a vague idea of what he wanted to do career-wise.
"I remember rolling up at the employment office at AIS and saying: 'Have you got any jobs going?'," he says.
"The reply was: 'Well you can do metallurgy' and I said: 'OK'.
"Back then, once you were employed, the expectation was that you had that job for as long as you wanted it."
After completing his metallurgy certificate, Oxman was given some sage advice by his father-in-law.
"He told me one day: 'You should get into computers, they are the way of the future'," he recalls.
In 1967, a computer course was run in Wollongong sponsored by BHP and IBM, which was a leading computer company through most of the 1960s. Oxman signed up for the nine-month course which attracted applicants from all over Australia.
During Oxman's training, he was taught how to create, edit and store his programs line by line on punched cards, which were paper cards used to encode characters of data.
This would be the method of programming he would use when employed by BHP's wholly-owned subsidiary Australian Iron and Steel (AIS).
Oxman would write the information on a coding sheet and then take it to a keypunch operator who would convert the sheet to data cards. Then the cards were checked by verifiers before being taken to the computer room. Programs were backed up by duplicating the cards or writing it to magnetic tape.
"It was a slow process and you could basically only write one program at a time," he says.
He used the COBOL programming language for some time.
"When I first started to work for the chief clerk, the computer section was a little department within AIS and it remained that way until we became BHP and it wasn't for another 20 years until we became a separate entity as BHP Information Technology (formed in 1989)," he says.
Computers were used in the 1960s and 1970s for commercial applications such as payroll, customer orders and invoicing.
After the era of mainframe computers and computer programming using punch cards ended, Oxman began using midrange systems, also known as minicomputers, including models from the PDP line, in the workplace.
Oxman recalls that because computers were only used by government agencies, universities and corporations, his work was not widely understood by his peers.
"You'd go out to dinner and if someone asked you what you did, and you said computer programmer, that would be the end of the conversation because people just didn't relate to it back then," he says.
Oxman says computers started to make a difference at the steelworks when they were used as production recording systems in the mills, and also significantly in the application of computer control to steelmaking.
Yet steelmaking and information technology was sometimes a challenging nexus, in the early days, of finding the right equipment that would be reliable in the dusty, gritty, windy and hot environment of a steel plant, recalls Oxman.
Then the steelworks that Oxman knew began to change. Open hearth steel making was replaced by the state-of-the-art Basic Oxygen Steelmaking process. Once thriving centres of production - the slab mill and the merchant mill - were closed.
"We had the (computer) systems for all those areas and that all went by the wayside," he remembers.
Oxman took a three-month holiday with his wife to Queensland. He then returned to BHP in 1990 and worked as a systems analyst, project manager and then in the maintenance/support area.
He still writes the occasional computer program but is more involved in changing existing programs to keep them up to date.
Yet Oxman's computer programming days will end this Monday, his last day at CSC. Is he planning to engage in lots of screen time during retirement?
"Hopefully not," he answers. ■